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Career firefighter retires after 22 years

Paramedic Gary McLean finishes out his time at Sandy Fire


Gary McLean is finishing up his final shifts at the Sandy Fire Department.

McLean, a career firefighter and paramedic for Sandy Fire, will retire June 30.

A paramedic since 1978, Mclean has been with Sandy Fire for 22 years: volunteering the first five and then being hired on full time.

McLean said he thought about other careers, but Uncle Sam had other plans. When the draft was reinstated, he went into the military. He was in the Air Force from 1972-76.

“I’ve always worked in emergency,” McLean said. He has been a resident of Sandy since 1984.

“Gary was working as a nurse when we hired him in 1998 and we were very impressed with his medical skills, abilities and the compassion he portrayed to the medical field,” said Chief Phil Schneider, who has worked with McLean for all of his 22 years at Sandy Fire.

McLean said that although it sounds like a cliché, the people are the best part of being at the department.

“The people are great,” he said. “We have a certain comradery because it’s like a team.”

Even though the people are what make it enjoyable, McLean said personalities are what can make a career at Sandy Fire challenging.

“You have to be a type A personality to get into this profession,” McLean said jokingly.

He said that although everyone is given a certain amount of identical training, folks may get things done differently. But the important part is that they get to the same end. “The patient gets better,” he said.

But according to McLean, over his two decades at Sandy Fire training is one of the things he has seen improve — saying it loud enough so that training officer Jason McKinnon could hear from the next office — along with equipment and multiple other betterments.

In terms of calls, McLean has taken thousands over the years, and he said all of them are unique.

“You can go on 1,000 chest pain calls and everyone of them is different,” he said.

“Everybody has calls that effect them,” McLean said.

For him, the most heart wrenching calls are those that involve seniors. Something that might seem insignificant to most people might be a life-changing event to them, he said.

Although he said there are definitely calls he doesn’t like to remember, McLean said he has seen some happy outcomes as well.

“We’ve had a couple of good cardiac arrest saves,” he said. There have been times when a patient was resuscitated and then McLean and other Sandy Fire crew members would go to the hospital with them and watch a Blazers game, he said.

“Gary is not only a great paramedic, but he is also very involved with medical issues at the county, state and national level,” Schneider said. “We will be losing a great teacher, seasoned paramedic and apparatus operator that has 22 years of experience and knowledge of the district.”

McLean works closely with the Epilepsy Foundation, and although he hopes to do some traveling — fishing, camping and sleeping through the night — he said he will probably stay active in medical services.